Thursday, November 27, 2008

Technical Difficulties

What frustrates you? I have a very low threshhold for remaining calm when dealing with computer problems. Everything from a loose cable to a malfunctioning USB port can cause problems, so they are often a time-consuming challenge to diagnose.

I'm having a static issue with a voiceover client. Though my 44,100Hz, 16-bit, 128Kbps file specifications (not that I know exactly what all those things mean, but I played Concentration enough to see when two things are alike) match those of other voiceover talents she uses, when she converts my clean-sounding MP3s to the format she needs, she hears static.

I've tried troubleshooting every which way. Fortunately the client is willing (for the moment, at least) to check out test files I send after trying potential solutions. I use Audacity, great, easy to use, free recording software. First I rerecorded the script to see if maybe my initial MP3 got messed up somehow, because she said the first few jobs I did for her were fine. And I have no idea what I might have done to my computer that makes it different from a week or so ago. Didn't work.

Then I tried adjusting some settings (faithful readers are aware that I am not a recording engineer, so it's frustrating enough to choose between ID3v1-more flexible or ID3v2-more compatible, or deciding if real-time dither and high-quality dither should be shaped, rectangle, triangle or none). That didn't work, either. I had a VO friend with more engineering skills try to figure this out, and tried yet another settings change. No go.

Today I downloaded the trial version of another home recording program, Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio. I'm figuring out how to get it to do the tasks I know how to make Audacity do. I'll send a test file Monday to see if somehow that solves the problem. If not, I'm not sure what else to try...sigh. Fingers crossed...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Room with a View

For the first time since fleeing corporate America to be Gainfully Unemployed, I went on San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Here's the view from my hotel room in Isla Verde:

The many benefits of taking a vacation include:

1) R&R. Slowing down the pace of everyday living, letting some stress go, by reading under a cabana by a beautifully landscaped pool (and sipping the occasional frozen drink). Walking on the beach through the surf in the morning and at night. Not being on a "I shoulds" or "I have tos." Turning your (carefully sunscreened with a high SPF) face up to the sun in a cloudless blue sky.

2) Expanding your horizons. Learning about our world is fascinating, but most of us don't make the time. Do YOU know where Puerto Rico is? I am admittedly geographically challenged. Until I decided to go to PR, I only knew it was south of Florida, but not its actual location (south east of Cuba, about a 4 1/2hour flight) or its place in US history. More on that next week.

3) Wining and dining. On vactaiaon, you have time to savor leisurely meals, partake in and learn about local cuisine, research popular and out of the way spots. Both of us really liked mufungo, which is mashed plantains mixed with meat or seafood...two we tried with red snapper were particularly tasty, one at the upscale Aguaviva and the other at Mi Casita, in a small strip mall next to a Baskin Robbins near our hotel, recommended to us by a cab driver.

4) Communing with Nature. Big city residents don't often get to immerse themselves in natural beauty. So we appreciated a half day tour to El Yunque rainforest in the mountains, with waterfalls and winding, precarious paths.

The minor downsides of vacationing:

1) Missed Opportunities. As discussed in an earlier post, freelancers can lose opportunities for work if they go out of town. Sure enough, I couldn't go on an audition for a bank commercial that filmed out of town. I was able to reschedule an audition for a play (they asked me to audition, so maybe that helped) and salvage an emergency VO recording by doing it the minute I got home, at 9PM). The friend I went with missed out on the chance to do a fast food VO audition and to participate in a backer's audition for a new musical.

2) Is there such a thing as too much time? Those of us accustomed to running around saying, "I have to do this, that and the other thing," may be surprised by how many hours there are in a day when you don't do any work, chores or errands at all. Settling into vacation mode and accepting that you deserve time off takes a mental adjustment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Bright Side

As faithful readers know, I tend to be a worry wart. These days, the stock market freefall and horrible reports about the economy make it painful to check my 401k balance and read the newspaper. So instead of dwelling on things I can't change, today I'm going to look on the bright side of life (as they advise in Spamalot).

Supposedly if you act happy, you'll release endorphins and actually feel happier. On the other hand, excessive worrying/stressing out can result in various ailments from back pain to ulcers to lost sleep/concentration and headaches.

10 things I'm happy about today, in no particular order:

1) The price of gas, which even in my neighborhood is under $3.00.
2) Free TV shows on the Internet.
3) Good customer service. Kudos to US Cellular for having a rep who actually sounded concerned about my BlackBerry problem and knew how to fix (Unlike AT&T Internet, where I seem to have trouble even getting to a real person and wind up with the rep who is reading a script by rote, line by line, and when I say I've already troubleshooted wants me to redo the basic stuff like turning off my modem. Ooops. There I go with the negativity again. You see how easy it is, even with the small things?)
4) A great book to lose yourself in.
5) Supportive friends and family.
6) People who do what they say they will when they say they will.
7) Returning clients who are happy with my work and want to give me more. And without having to audition.
8) Events to look forward to, including my vacation, plans with friends, shows I have tickets for, and the holiday concert I'm singing in.
9) The sense of accomplishment when I get stuff done.
10) Good health.

What 10 things are you happy about?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Goofus, Gallant and Rules

Perhaps you too read Highlights magazine as a kid and remember Goofus and Gallant. Whatever the social situation presented, Goofus did the "wrong" or impolite thing, while Gallant did the "right" or polite thing.

I thought of them while in line to vote at 5:50am on Tuesdsay morning.

There were already 10 or so people there when I arrived at my polling place, but because of the configuration of the small lobby, no clear line had formed. I automatically asked where the end of the line was. As did each person who arrived
after me. Someone would point out who had gotten there first and who was last. Each newcomer took his or her place, and with cell phone or iPod waited to be let in. People were smiling, pleasant, and friendly despite the early hour.

I thought, "What a nice neighborhood I live in. This is the American way."

Until a woman barreled her way into the now crowded room and, as it happened, cut in front of me. She didn't make eye contact with anyone. She frowned. Clearly she was, at this moment, a Goofus. So I wondered, what would Gallant do? Would he let her get away with rude behavior, or call her out on it and put peer pressure to work so she'd go to the end of the line?

What makes some people think the rules don't apply to them? Are we obligated as Gallants to speak up, stand up for ourselves, or should we turn the proverbial other cheek and rise above rudeness? How bad does bad behavior need to be before we'll take action?

I chose not to say anything. But obviously I'm still thinking about it.